Healthy Homes for Healthy Kids Helps Families Take Charge


When Laura's* son had an elevated lead level, a nurse with Cherry Health suspected his rental home could have lead hazards and referred the family to Healthy Homes. After helping the family perform dust wipe testing, Laura learned that the windows, entryway, and soil all had high lead levels.

Healthy Homes provided Laura with the information and tools she needed to perform lead-safe cleaning on the windows and entryway. Healthy Homes also brought entryway floor mats to help reduce the spread of dust and dirt. Laura covered the window stills and rearranged so that her son couldn't access the windows. All of Laura's efforts helped her son's lead levels go down at his last check-up.

That's just one of two stories from families we've served this year with our Healthy Homes for Healthy Kids home visiting program to help families and children affected by substandard housing conditions. Families served by this program have children 5 and under, live in the city of Grand Rapids, meet income eligibility, and live in homes built before 1978. Since this summer, thirty families have enrolled in the program, exceeding projections.

Evelyn's* family is living in a rental built in 1918. The Kent County Health Department sent Healthy Homes the family's information after her son's lead levels began to elevate. The family's kids and their neighborhood friends like to play in the yard around the house. Dust wipe testing revealed the older windows had high lead levels, but the dirt in the yard where the kids play and spend time was the biggest concern. Evelyn’s husband built a concrete walkway around the side of the home where the kids like to play to keep them out of the toxic dirt. Now that Evelyn knows where the danger is, she is keeping kids clear of any exposed dirt in the yard.

These families aren't alone. Many of the houses in the city of Grand Rapids were built before 1978. Every year hundreds of Grand Rapids' kids are exposed to lead in the dust and dirt in and around their homes. With each exposure, children are hurt, and their futures threatened. In the typical year, Healthy Homes for Healthy Kids serves about 100 families with direct services, but the need is much higher. 

There is a growing movement of community members that believe our community should eliminate harmful housing conditions before kids are hurt. Leading the way are parents that know what it's like to live in fear of an invisible threat.  Many of these parents are just like Laura and Evelyn, first learning of the danger after their child was hurt. Your help is needed to reach more families and build power for change that prioritizes children's health and wellbeing.

*Names changed for privacy